Three ex-cons get hired to move everything out of an old man’s house. What begins as a simple job quickly takes a deadly turn when the trio realize the house and the old man harbor dark secrets.
Director Jerren Lauder makes his feature-film debut with Stay Out of the F**king Attic. The film was written by a team including Lauder, Julie Auerbach (Babysitter Must Die), Jesse Federman, and Jason Scott Goldberg, this being the first feature film for most of these writers. Stay Out of the F**king Attic follows an ex-con who started his own moving company that hires other ex-cons. He goes on a job with two more recent ex-cons to move an elderly man out of a beautiful, somewhat decrepit old home. Despite multiple red flags early on, the group decides to stay and finish the job because the money is too good to pass up. As secrets unravel and terrifying discoveries are made, the film results in a creepy, grotesque, bloody, and even funny ride from start to finish.
For the most part, Stay Out of the F**king Attic does a nice job of tackling some potentially heavy topics and incorporating them into an otherwise fun, campy film. One of the main themes, which is quite relevant for the times we live in, is dealing with Nazis and the idea of second chances. When we first meet the ex-cons, we don’t know about their past crimes, but we know they are from different gangs and normally would hate each other. Yet here they are, working together, trying to not only move beyond their criminal past, but also trying to be better people. The leader of this trio was formerly a member of a neo-Nazi group in prison who desperately wants to prove that he is not that person anymore. Then he is forced to face that side of himself in the form of an old man who can only be described as pure evil. While these are all very heavy topics, the filmmakers find ways to add comedic elements to break up the tension.
While the cast is quite small, it takes a while to figure out just who the main protagonist is. There are several moments in Stay Out of the F**king Attic where the film seems to be going in a specific direction with a “main character” in mind, but then it changes. It makes some of the more murderous scenes lose their impact. This is because you expect that person to be the big hero and when suddenly they are not, you are left more confused than concerned about their fate. This slight lack of focus could be a result of having multiple writers working on one 80 minute film. When it comes to how the characters are written, they might come off to viewers as a bit stereotypical. Specifically with the one black woman in the film. She is written to be very stereotypically loud and sassy. This stereotype even prevails when she is basically being tortured, yet she gets in a couple quippy one-liners.
The performances for each of these characters is very enjoyable. Ryan Francis (Born Bad, Blood Craft) plays Schillinger, form neo-Nazi and owner of the moving company. Schillinger is a very endearing, strong character. Francis perfectly embodies the character and is able to convey the depths of the character’s guilt and desire to be a better person. Morgan Alexandria (Forever My Girl, This is Us) plays Imani. Despite some of the clunky, stereotypical dialogue for Imani, Alexandria delivers an enjoyable performance. She makes it impossible not to root for the character. Bryce Fernelius (Ruling of the Heart, Christmas Under Wraps) plays the newest member of the ex-con trio, Carlos. Carlos is definitely written to be the comic-relief of the film, but Fernelius adds a lot of heart to the character. Finally we have Michael Flynn (The Outpost, The Hollow Point) playing Vern, the creepy homeowner. Flynn does a fantastic German accent throughout the film and manages to make Vern the perfect amount of sinister.
Considering this film straddles the lines between campy and grotesque, it’s no surprise Stay Out of the F**king Attic has great practical effects. Especially with two of Vern’s victims, the use of practical effects leaves quite an impression. There is almost a level of work that could be considered creature design that will haunt viewers. The various kills throughout the film, even the less violent ones, still have a heightened level of blood and gore to make the audience cringe. Some of the more squeamish viewers will no doubt be watching a few of these scenes from behind their hands.
Stay Out of the F**king Attic can be uneven at times, but the end result is still a ghastly good time. This is a pretty strong feature-film directorial debut for Lauder, and it’s a decent debut for a majority of the writing team as well. While the characters might be unevenly written, the main trio is still a group of likable characters the audience can root for and the villain is one any sane person will despise (in a good way). At times, the film relies on stereotypes and common horror tropes that can make the film predictable, but it’s still a fun ride. The real highlight of the film is definitely the practical effects and gore, which is sure to delight many horror fans. It’s campy, it can be funny, it’s gory, the characters are enjoyable, and there is some social commentary thrown in for good measure.
OVERALL RATING: 5.5/10